(I’ll be working on shorter titles in the future)
As the non biological mom, I really worried about how our baby would bond with me. I always saw things about how a baby knows it’s their mom, this weird invisible genetic bond that will always be there. And that terrified me. What if she grows up with a weird feeling about me? I’m there playing mom, but does she believe I am?
Getting the relationship with you and your little pickle isn’t just about the time spent with them once they’ve made their entrance into the world. It’s about making sure you’re in the mind-set that you’re every bit a parent as the birth mom. I know that’s been a real struggle for me. I’ve put together a list of things that I believe helped me to establish my relationship with Riley:
The Prep Work
Being fully involved from day one definitely helped me start to ignore that silly nagging about being a parent and if I’d be viewed as one. From picking a donor, meeting with them, agreeing with my partner on if we liked them; to getting an agreement sorted of what we want and expect from ourselves, the donor and other various family members, it made the genetics side of it not as big an issue in my mind. This was our baby, we made the choice together. When my wife was pregnant, I spent my time looking after her (obviously!)- I had the mindset of “I’m looking after my baby by looking after my wife”- I made sure she drank enough water, took her vitamins, and got enough exercise. Not just for her, but for the baby as well. We did hypnobirthing (read our hypnobirthing birth story here), and I found that the hypnobirthing practice during pregnancy really helped me to bond with the baby, and understand what was going to happen during labour. When the time came, I knew what to do- it was my job to look after Emma, and be her ‘voice’ when speaking to the midwives. I did all of the talking and I felt involved in the labour (as I was talking Emma through the surges)- I wasn’t just a spectator!
Guess what guys, you gotta get stuck in. We very quickly got a system in place for us of alternating the nights we did feeds and got up with Riley. It worked for us, this little chunk of adorable was a joint choice and it will be forever. If you can, feeding them is great, we didn’t both breastfeed but this is something I wished we had looked into more. After an unsuccessful breastfeeding journey, we formula fed Riley, which meant she looked to both of us for food. Regularly feeding your little one creates a solid base to build from for a relationship. If anything, do more than your partner, they’ve just been through a lot with carrying them for however long and then given birth, a few sleepless nights are worth it if it makes your partner feel better quicker. Plus you get extra night-time sleepy cuddles and face it, you just wanna sit and look at them sleep don’t you?
Doing these sorts of things made us feel equal, but we also tried hard to be openly equal- so dropoffs to nursery and school were always shared between us and our families. We also jointly worked on decorating Riley's bedroom, cooking, and all household chores. As well as this, we created the range of baby record books so that I could be included in the Memory Book that would be passed down to Riley when she is bigger. We even made it so there is space for my mommy name!
Reading with them
Reading books with Riley has always been a favourite thing to do with her (or it was, she doesn’t sit still any more, but I really want to know if Little Croc is going to realise he’s got his own skills and contributions to the group!). A passion for reading is something I want to encourage in Riley; finding the answer to an issue, discovering everyone has something to offer, encouraging imagination, or just an escape from the real world for a moment is invaluable for everyone, big or small. We read to Riley every night- it’s our quiet time together (sometimes!).
Have time just the two of you
Walks are a nice little alone time you can have with your baby. The fresh air is good for both of you, you get out of the house and stretch your legs, you both have something new to look at (if they stay awake for it!), and you can really get lost in just being a duo for a little while. Mom can stay at home and get some rest or a shower too.
When you’re raising a child there are going to be countless decisions to be made, and some may have greater weight for your bond with them than others. The more input you have on decisions no matter how small, the more it will reinforce for you that you are definitely on the same level as bio-mom. One big decision was Riley’s surname, we both felt that having the same surname would make us feel like a more complete family unit, but of course that was our personal preference and some people may not put any real bearing on surnames when it comes to things like this. As the non-bio mom you may also get in your head about what you are going to be known as to the child, “mom” has already been taken! We spent weeks searching and thinking of the best name for me that I felt the most comfortable with. There’s so much possibility that we’ve made an entire blog post out of it, “6 ways to deal with the ‘2 moms’ naming dilemma!”. Now, we have a name for me that I am comfortable with, and makes me feel fully part of this family unit.
We also entered into a civil partnership prior to conceiving Riley- this meant we were both able to be on the birth certificate and so it solidified our relationship even more- in the eyes of the law.
Overall, there are a lot of different family units out there and endless combinations of parents, children, support networks, emotions and opinions. I hope this list helped in any way with you getting the best relationship with the new addition to your life.
Not flesh of my flesh
Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn't grow under my heart,
But in it.
Author: Fleur Conkling Heyliger